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Distant Voices of Malaya, Still Colonial Lives

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Abstract

Through the example of the Crown film Voices of Malaya (1948), this article examines interrelated postwar shifts in colonial history and British documentary cinema. Produced over three tumultuous years (1945–8) – in Malaya and England, with local film-makers and British documentarians – Voices of Malaya is a hybrid text torn between traditions of British documentary cinema and an emerging instructional, colonial cinema; between an international cinema for overseas audiences and a local cinema used within government campaigns and between an earlier ideal of empire and a rapidly changing, late liberal imperialism. The article challenges the traditional decline and fall narrative of the British documentary movement, as I examine the often overlooked ‘movement overseas’ of film-makers, practices and ideologies into the colonies after the war. In charting the emergence of the Malayan Film Unit, I examine the role of the British documentary movement in the formation of local postcolonial cinemas.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-451
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013

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